Holmgren calm in midst of Seahawks storm

It's funny how, at times, we can take people for granted. Seahawks QB Matt Hasselbeck has been about as durable as anyone in the league over the past two years, but this year the injury bug has bitten him as well. Head coach Mike Holmgren updated the press today on the status of all his injured players, the preparations for QB Seneca Wallace's first start and the overall psyche of the team.

"(Bobby) Engram is going to be practicing today in a scout team capacity, kind of getting him back up to speed," Holmgren told the assembled media earlier today. "Then it's just how he feels. He's got to get his strength back. He's gaining weight; it's all going in the right direction.

"(Marcus) Tubbs, his knee flared up just a little bit. We're just going to have to rest him, probably early in the week. I think he'll be okay for the game. (Floyd) Womack will start practicing a little bit. He'll probably be ready next week. That's the way I'm looking at that.

On the subject of his two missing "stars" Holmgren seemed encouraged about where both were heading into the weekend. "(Shaun) Alexander, he was on the treadmill yesterday, his foot responded well," Holmgren noted. "He will continue to increase his workload this week with the target being next week's game.

"(Matt) Hasselbeck is in a brace. We'll leave him inside during practice. This first week will be pretty intensive rehab. All indications appear to mean he can come back when we thought. We're thinking three-to-four weeks and again, we'll just have to see on a week-to-week basis."

In Hasselbeck's stead will be Wallace who has never started a regular season game. Last week, against the Vikings, Wallace had some good moments and some bad moments, but Holmgren said he's looking forward to using him in different ways and recalled a time in San Francisco where they had to cater to a different type of quarterback when either Joe Montana or Steve Young was injured.

"Those guys had a little more mobility than the guy who came in to play (Steve Bono)," Holmgren recalled. "What you try to do is try not to overcompensate too much. Seneca has been practicing in this offense since the beginning. He does the same stuff that Matt does in training camp, and vice versa.

"He does have good running skills. I think that's fair to say. But I don't think he can go into the game thinking he can play the game that way. I think he has to go into it thinking he's the quarterback, he's going to run the plays I call, and do the very best he can do."

One area that Hasselbeck makes Holmgren's job easier is his knowledge of the system and his ability to get the offense into a play that can be successful against a defensive alignment. Wallace doesn't have that game experience to make all of those changes, but Holmgren noted he hopes he won't have to change too many things.

"He will have the ability to (change plays at the line of scrimmage)," Holmgren said. "I would trust that he won't have to do that as much. My charge to the offensive staff is I don't want him to have to do that. So when we put the plan together, let's try and think of more things that we can go up there where he doesn't have to do that.

"I think that would be pretty unfair if I expected him to do exactly what Matt does in games, that way. Seneca is usually standing next to me on the sidelines so he knows every time Matt changes the play and it doesn't work, he knows exactly what I say. So now, he's going to be the guy."

Helping Wallace will be 10 other players hoping to make his job that much easier.

"The guys, they've been together a long time, this group, they know the team," Holmgren said. "They know what's happening. They can see who the guys are that are not practicing. I told them you still can't worry too much about anybody but yourself. That's a mistake. You take care of your own business, be the best you can be and then it happens for you on the team.

"We're just not going on all cylinders here except for one little area. There are areas here that we have to get better at and we will and we'll keep grinding and keep pushing. So everyone's got their own challenges now and that's how I'm presenting it to them. This is a high character group. They're a good group. They're going to give it their best shot."

Along the offensive line, one player, or the absence of one has been the topic of discussion most of the season. Steven Hutchinson left via free agency and Chris Spencer, a second-year center, has been moved to left guard. To say the transition hasn't been a smooth one, would be an understatement. With Womack getting healthier and with rookie Rob Sims pushing for time, the Seahawks may end up rotating players to find the best fit.

"We put a lot of pressure on Chris Spencer to step in and do this," Holmgren said. "I'm not saying it's altogether fair, but if they can share the load just a little bit, and then (Womack) comes back in another week, maybe it helps the situation.

"Like I said, when the actual game comes, I don't know how many snaps they're going to get. Maybe Chris plays the whole ball game again, depending on how things are going, but I think Sims has worked hard. I know he's a good player. He's a strong, physical guy. He's a natural guard. I think now's probably the time to take a look at him, just a little bit, before Chop comes back to see where he is. That's really why we're doing it.

The players have all been talked to. Look, anytime you make a change, of any kind, whether it's major or minor, it's tough on the player. These guys have listened, they understand the rationale. They're disappointed; I think that's fair to say. At the same time, every man in the room has a job to do. You know, after being with me a few years, I don't think I have a quick hook with people. Like I said the other day, if I think we have to get better at a certain position, or at least look at it, then we're going to do it. We'll see what happens. There's no guarantee this will solve any problems we've been having, but we're going to try."

Also giving it a try will be Seattle's upcoming opponent, the Kansas City Chiefs whose own running game has struggled this season as well. Coming into the season RB Larry Johnson was thought to be an MVP candidate, but he's only put up 489 yards and five touchdowns in six games, well short of the record-setting pace he was on last year in his nine starts when he posted 1,750 yards and 20 touchdowns.

Johnson had a breakout game last week against the San Diego Chargers and Holmgren said he's someone you always have to account for regardless of how unproductive he's been up to this point.

"He would be a challenge regardless of what happened last Sunday because he is good," Holmgren admitted. "They are going to give him the ball a lot. The only game that he didn't touch the ball a lot was Pittsburgh but they got behind and felt they had to throw it. Plus, their starting quarterback has been hurt. We know about Larry Johnson. He is one of the outstanding running backs in football.

Holmgren also equated the situation that Chiefs QB Damon Huard, who is subbing for an injured Trent Green, has taken over is the same thing Wallace would have faced had Alexander been healthy.

"This is not quite the same situation we're in," Holmgren cautioned. "He has the great runner, which helps. I just think if we still had Shaun, the idea of Seneca going in and playing would be a little bit different because you could rely on other things. You don't have to rely so much on the quarterback. They still have the great runner and they have (Tony) Gonzalez. It is a situation that has worked because one, he has prepared for it, and he's very experienced and very poised, and they have some pretty good weapons to go with it."

Holmgren and the Seahawks will continue to prepare for the Chiefs on Thursday before leaving on Friday to head to Kansas City.

Scott Eklund writes and reports for Seahawks.NET and Dawgman.com. Feel free to contact him at sctthawk@yahoo.com.

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